Rule of the Month: Conflict Resolution

By Sr. Rules Officials: Pete Scholz and Terry McEvilly

Resolving Rules Issues During the Round

Most, but not all, of the Rules of Golf are applied to both match play and stroke play. However, when Rules issues arise on the course, the Rules provide a very specific resolution depending on the form of play.

In match play, the player and opponent might disagree regarding the proper procedure on the course. On the other hand, they might agree on a procedure that later is found to be incorrect. Knowing how to resolve these situations is very important in match play.

Too Many Clubs

In stroke play, if a player is uncertain about how to proceed, he or she may use a very specific Rule designed only to be used in stroke play. Or what if the players in a group agree on how a player should proceed and it is later found to be incorrect?

The most important thing to remember when dealing with issues on the course is Rule 1.2a which states that “All players are expected to play in the spirit of the game by acting with integrity—for example, by following the Rules, applying all penalties, and being honest in all aspects of play.”

Test your knowledge regarding how to proceed when Rules issues arise in both forms of play with the following questions.

Questions: True / False

  1. In stroke play, if a player sees another player breach a Rule, the player should report the incident to the offending player or the Committee. Failure to do so could result in disqualification for serious misconduct.
  2. A player in a match has interference from a cart path. Unsure if the relief area is one or two club-lengths from the reference point, the player and opponent agree that it is two. The player drops nearly two club-lengths from the reference point and plays the ball. Later in the round it is discovered that this was incorrect. The opponent may claim the player lost the hole for playing from a wrong place.
  3. A breach of a Rule may be overlooked in match play but shouldn’t be overlooked in stroke play.
  4. On the third hole of a match, the player notices that the opponent has 15 clubs in his or her bag. The player says nothing and chooses to ignore the breach and continue the match. When reporting the result of the match to the Committee, the player decides to request a ruling about the opponent’s extra club. The Committee should rule that the player’s opponent wins the match as played.
  5. In stroke play, players are encouraged to help each other in applying the Rules. Any agreement they reach as a group will be considered proper and no penalties may be applied.
  6. In both forms of play, a player who is unsure of the proper procedure may complete the hole with two balls and allow the Committee to decide which ball is to count.
  7. When completing a hole with two balls, before taking further action the player should announce which ball he or she wishes to count if the Rules permit.
  8. In match play, players may agree to ignore a Rule or waive a penalty they know applies. In stroke play, players must not deliberately agree to ignore any Rule or waive a penalty they know applies.
  9. A player in a stroke play competition played two balls to complete a hole after being unsure of the proper procedure. Both balls were holed in 4 strokes. When turning in his or her scorecard the player failed to inform the Committee that he or she played two balls. Since both balls had the same score, there is no penalty.
  10. In both match and stroke play, a player may be disqualified after the competition has closed for certain breaches of the Rules.


Answers:

  1. True. Rule 20.1c(2). In stroke play, it is the responsibility of every player to protect the rights of all the other players. Therefore, each player is not only responsible for their own play and actions but also the actions of other players in their group. For instance, a player who has finished his or her round is counting on all the following players to play by and enforce the Rules.
  2. False. Rule 20.1b(1). In match play, when the player and opponent agree on how to decide a Rule issue, the agreed upon procedure is conclusive even if it turns out to be incorrect. It is important to note that the players must not deliberately agree to ignore any Rule or waive a penalty that they know applies.
  3. True. Rule 20. This question highlights the difference of match play and stroke play when dealing with Rules issues. In match play, since the competition is just between the player and the opponent, a breach may be overlooked. However, in stroke play, in order to protect the other players in the competition, a breach of a Rule should be brought to the attention of the player, the player’s marker, a referee, or the Committee as soon as possible and no later than before the other player returns his or her scorecard.
  4. True. Rule 20.1b(2). For a ruling request to be considered by the Committee, it must be timely. When a player becomes aware of the facts, a request must be made before any player makes a stroke to begin another hole. And the player making the request must inform the opponent that a later ruling will be sought when a referee or the Committee becomes available. In the case presented, the player had until either player or opponent made a stroke to begin the 4th hole to inform the opponent that a later ruling will be sought.
  5. False. Rule 20.1c(1). It is true that players should help each other in applying the Rules. However, unlike match play, any agreement reached regarding how a player should proceed is not binding on the player, a referee or the Committee. Therefore, the player may incur additional penalties if it is later determined that the agreed upon procedure was incorrect.
  6. False. Rule 20.1b(4). The procedure for playing two balls to complete a hole applies only in stroke play. In a match, if a player plays two balls and the opponent doesn’t object, the original ball always counts. If the opponent objects and makes a timely ruling request, the player loses the hole for playing a wrong ball.
  7. True. Rule 20.1c(3). This error is one of the most common errors when using this procedure. When a player fails to announce in time which ball he or she wishes to count, the Rule will decide for them. The ball played first is treated as the ball chosen by default and will count provided the Rules permit the procedure used.
  8. False. Rule 1.3b(1). In both match and stroke play, players must not deliberately agree to ignore any Rule or penalty they know applies. If any of the players involved in the agreement have started a round, the players are disqualified. It is important to note that in match play, players may agree on how to proceed, but must not deliberately agree to ignore a known Rule or penalty.
  9. False. Rule 20.1c(3). Even though the player scored the same with both balls, he or she must report the procedure of playing two balls to the Committee before returning the score card. Failure to do so results in the disqualification of the player.
  10. True. Rule 20.2e. In match play, there is no time limit on disqualifying a player under the following Rules; 1.2 serious misconduct, 1.3b(1) deliberately ignoring a known breach or penalty that he or she has incurred, or agreeing with another player to ignore any Rule or penalty they know applies. In stroke play, a player must be disqualified after the competition has closed in four circumstances. 1. For returning a score for any hole lower than actually taken for any reason other than failing to include one or more penalty strokes that, before the competition closed, the player did not know about (Rule3.3b(3)). 2. Knew before the competition had closed that the returned scorecard showed a handicap that was higher than the actual handicap, and this affected the number of handicap strokes used to adjust the player’s score (Rule 3.3b(4)). 3. Knew before the competition had closed that he or she was in breach of any other Rule with a penalty of disqualification, and 4. Deliberately agreed with another player to ignore any Rule or penalty they knew applied (Rule 1.3b(1)).